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German writers explore the LBI Archives

LBI has teamed up with prominent German-language fiction authors and poets to highlight the rich holdings of our archives through short texts published in local newspapers. Known as Stolpertexte in homage to the brass memorial bricks that dot European streetscapes at the homes of former Jewish residents, these short texts invite the reader to imagine the lives of people who left traces in the LBI archives.

LBI launched the project with a reading at the Capa-Haus in Leipzig during the city's famed book fair on March 21 featuring writers Ulrike Draesner, Norbert Hummelt, Karosh Taha, and Ruth-Maria Thomas.

Each Stolpertext uses the tools of literary narrative or poetry to explore the true stories of an individual or family based on their papers in the LBI Archives and will be published in a newspaper based near where the protagonist lived.

In addition to the writers who participated in the Leipzig launch event, the authors involved in the project include Fred Breinersdorfer, Ulrike Draesner, Lena Gorelik, Olga Grjasnowa, Tanja Kinkel, Tijan Sila, Karosh Taha, Julie Zeh, and many others.

Dana von Suffrin is a Munich-based writer whose debut novel Otto is about a Jewish Transylvanian who settles in Germany after twenty years in Israel. The dark comedy is loosely based on her own family’s story. Von Suffrin is also a historian who wrote a dissertation about the Zionist botanist Otto Warburg. Researching her Stolpertext about the restitution claims of the Bavarian refugee Werner Kleeman gave her new insight into a topic she already knew well, both personally and professionally. “Even as a historian myself, I didn’t realize how excruciating and re-traumatizing the restitution process was for the victims,” she said. “No one in my family talked about it.” However, she says she tried to let Kleeman and his papers speak for themselves: “He didn’t want to see himself as a victim,” she said, “but he was resolute, unrelenting, and even demanding - and he was right.”

“The great poet Hölderlin wrote, ‘Was bleibt, stiften die Dichter,’ - what remains, is a gift of the poets,” said Matthias Pfeffer, a television producer, author, and philosopher who developed the concept for Stolpertexte and is co-curating the project with the LBI. “Literature is not only absolutely essential to our understanding of the past, but by preserving memories, writers can also help build a better future.”

The Stolpertexte will be published in newspapers across Germany throughout 2024. LBI also plans to print a selection of the texts in a book later this year.

Stolpertexte published to date:

Media Coverage of the Stolpertexte Project

  • Florian Pfitzner, " 'Stolpertexte' erzählen Lebensgeschichten getöteter Juden in Nazi-Deutschland", Frankfurter Rundschau, March 19, 2024.
  • Ulrich Gutmair, "Literarisches Gedenken (Eindrücke von der Leipziger Buchmesse)", taz, March 22, 2024.
  • Christhard Läpple, "Stolpertexte", 3Sat/Kulturzeit, March 28, 2024.
  • Bettina Treiber, "Erster Stolpertext in Österreich verfasst", Burgenland Heute, (ORF) January 31, 2024.